Sunday, 29 June 2014

Personal is Political

Dear readers,

        I came back just in time just to share few thoughts with you about my last week in Kizilay’s summer camp in Gümüldür, where children from Odemis and Kiraz counties stayed for more than a week next to the sea.
       There is always a positive and negative side in most of the things we live and experience and I want to share with you both. From the time I read what Simon De Bouivoir once mentioned- that “the personal is political”,  I started realizing how important our personal experiences are in order to analyze the world that we live in. Many people think that Political issues are issues which are happening somewhere far away from them, but in reality –the political- is as close as our most personal thoughts and ideas are . The quickest we understand this, the fastest we will start taking more conscious decisions.
       Let’s start with the positive thing, so that you won’t blame me that I am too pessimistic!
I am really grateful for the opportunity I was given to take part in such an action for various reasons. To come in contact with less advantaged children than I happen to be and see the effort of the volunteers to inspire them through artistic activities and games was certainly a hard but also an inspiring procedure for me as well. There is no doubt that Handem, Pelin, Seher and the rest of the children had an amazing summer camp time. They swam for the first time, they played games on the sand, they had their first camp fire, they were taught about Kucuk KaraBalik, they used their imagination to paint and came in touch with theater trying to reenact Kucuk’s KaraBalik Life. They had amazing food, very beautiful camp houses to stay in, they were taught about earthquakes since turkiye is a very seismic country and they watched films. The volunteers really tried their best to make children feel comfortable and welcomed, giving some of their free time for such a caring purpose. It’s probably what a child would dream as a perfect holiday plan! 

painting Kucuk Kara Balik adventures

                                  Children inspired theater of Kucuk Kara Balik

                                          Cleaning the sea in the morning!

                                          reading Kucuk Kara Balik Book

        During these days though, I also experienced feelings of disappointment and anger and this is my other side of the story, where the political fits. I found out about the difficult situations in which these kids live and I had that permanent perception that our world is completely wrong and what we only do to change it is just a drop in the sea. Yes, civil charities such as this summer camp play an important role in people’s life, but what would play a permanent and incredible efficient role in people’s lives is a strong political will to create all those political, financial and social conditions for the elımınatıon of poverty. Civil charities, most of the time, don’t have the ideological background to denounce the real reasons of poverty, as it is depicted in those high unemployment rates, at the labor exploitation, in the civil inequalities, in the high rates of children exploitation and the domestic violence rates, and find themselves trying to find solution to the results of a problem, rather than to its initial causes.
Even the very fact that charity exists, means that the world we live in is fundamentally unjust and that -fortunately, indeed- there are people who have realized it and have devoted themselves to restoring it. But how much can we really do, when the deep roots of injustice are still there? It is important that we see behind the problem; what caused it and what maintains it through the years. Because, no matter how many times you feed a man, at the end of the day the society will still be starving.
If we really want to strike out the injustice and create a world of equality and freedom, we need to build a political conscience. This conscience that gives meaning to the personal, the individualized, by perceiving the bigger picture.

With great respect to all those people who struggle day after day against injustice...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Art is for All

My lovely readers,

   I am currently informing you from Sahebe Kizilay summer camp that ART is for all!

   I am publicly admitting that I have been for many many many years among those people who have that psychological disorder called AOF,  “Afraid Of Art”! The usual symptoms are:

a)   tendency to skip activities that include the word “imagination”
b)  tendency of automatic self-underestimation when you hear the “Art” word.
c)   Denial to visit “art exhibitions”.

     Though, at this long day in this summer camp, I became a little bit more familiar with my art phobias. Under the cool shadow of the trees a small art workshop for children took place as a continuity of the Kucuk Kara Balik workshop. Children had to imagine the effects of the fairy tale on them and paint something that would depict their thoughts about it.
And then suddenly, there was it! I so wanted to paint something and participate!
     In the world of adults, there is no place for art. We have created a world where our imagination and our undefined desires cannot be expressed without a cost. And it is like we judge art everyday and we find it guilty.

     That is why, through the eyes of our childhood we can revive the way we choose to perceive art. We just need to imagine our little selves, full of energy and simplicity, to realize that our fear of art was never really ours. It was more of a creation of the society we are living in, that judges and filters all our innate imagination just to keep us within the colourless misery of its strict rules.  

   So, close your eyes, take a pen, remember your 10 years old self and start painting, just like our friends above did!

Art is for all!

                  the result of children's imagination on Kucuk Kara Balik

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

2nd day of Action at Sahebe Kizilay summer camp!

       Today it was the second day at the camping organised by Sahebe Kizilay, in Gümüldür. Our day was  full of activities that is why I am writing this few words with a lot of fullfillment and a lot of fatigue. In the morning we went to the sea, where the children and ourselves cleaned the beach and then enjoyed it by playing group games on the sand. It was the perfect timing for us to come closer with the children, under the morning sun. Later on the children began to occupy themselves with their scheduled workshops. One workshop was run by Yorgan and its goal was to let children familiarize with the concept of volunteering and collective problem solving.   

Right after, it was Atolye’s Deneme Sanat time! Secil coordinated the workshop of “Kucuk kara balik”. I bet you wonder what this is!
It means 'The little black fish” and it is a well-known children's book story. The story is about a little fish who leaves the safety of his local stream, in order to venture into the world. Let’s imagine that it was someone like me! During his long journey the little fish experiences a lot of adventures, such as leading down a waterfall and meets a lot of interesting characters, such as a helpful lizard and the dreaded pelican. The story is told by an old fish, who narrates it to her 12,000 children and grandchildren. What was interesting was that the children were keen on the story and they became very much attached to the central character, the little black fish. After the story was finished, Secil started to discuss with the children the story and its meanings. As I realized from the few words that I could unfortunately understand through the conversation, the story indeed had the ability to speak in  a child's mind and soul, since children where putting so much effort to try to understand and give all possible perspectives of the Kara Balik fish. After all, all of us are “little black fishes”^^  :D

P.S Today I also found out that I have good opportunities to become a very good Turkish coffee teller. But you won’t have the chance to know, unless you let me read it for you!!!

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Summer belongs to children

       My Days in Izmir are passing by leaving me with new pictures and experiences. My turkish language skills may not be enough to express my thoughts and feelings but my head is working like crazy trying to capture every new word and every smile. You may say that I am a dreamer*, but today I found myself somewhere under the sun and close to the sea. This year Sahebe Kizilay of Izmir is organizing a children’s summer camp at Ege University Camp, in  Gümüldür and of course Atölye Deneme Sanat couldn’t miss the chance to be here!

*John Lennon would say that “ I am not the only one”

      This day was one of that days that you wake up early full of stress to be on time and you never think that your day will end up with a relaxing feeling that you are actually on holidays. But in these holidays, I was not alone. At this very beautiful camping, 54 children from Ödemis and Kiraz came along, leaving their kalabalik countys behind.
Our day was easy going. After a tasty lunch with patlican it was the time for all of us to seize the day and do what a genuine summer lover would do: swimming!!! The beach suddenly became colourful, from children’s happy voices. I try to remember my first time at the sea, thinking that for many of them it can probably be their first time. Tomorrow, I will ask them! I promise!
       Little after our second meal that included a lot of cacik (tzatziki), it was time for volleyball. No, wait! I want to talk more about the food, because it included ingredients that I haven’t eaten before, but then I guess this is not the point I want to stand at. Above all, what counts the most is that those children could have and enjoy their own summer camp for 8 days without their parents to worry extra expenses, since everything was covered from Kizilay Subesi.

      And little before the night comes, under the noisy sounds of random songs, we couldn’t hide our will to dance and so we did! From small choreographies to traditional dances from Thrakya, we found a way to communicate with each other without words. Just by holding hands and laughing with our clumsy dancing moves.
     The surprise was revealed at night. Lider,a volunteer, surprised as all with his funny games, that kept the interest of the children alive and created a friendly environment between us. Theatrical games transformed children into the actors of their own spontaneous theater. Clapping and clapping and clapping. The night will soon be over.


It is time for us to sleep.
 Have a nice night!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Our transcendental identities

Past is like a big box that holds in it memories, colours, tears, smiles and sometimes anger and dispair. It's this past in which our stories are written. The stories of our homeland, the history of the political, the story of our identities, the stories of our lives. And when we open this box to bring up stories and invest the future with meaning, it worths to learn to see those stories through a collective perspective. Because it is this collective perspective which transforms our individual experience into a peaceful protest for a future that is better than the past.
In this place, 100 years ago, two nations used to share the same land. Sometimes in peace and sometimes under a lot of difficulties. Religion and nation was what seperated them, but the warm summer noons and the same sky was what brought them united. Tourkish and Greeks, Muslims and Christians, felt this place, all of them, their homeland. At this time, though, due to the establishment of the nationalistic ideas, both in the greek political scene and the tourkish, millions of people were forced to violently abandon their homeland, in which they used to live till this time, so that a big national political aim be implemented: “Every nation must have its own state”. And somewhat like this, the borders of the two nations were defined, Greeks and Turkish, just after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and just before the start of the Balkan wars.
Our national identities are deeply embedded now in our psyche, they define a big part of our life. Our customs, way of thinking, language, our religion, our limitations, perhaps even our dictations that we want to brake. However, our national identities have their own history through time. They are neither non-historical concepts, outside of the place and time, nor static and unchangeable. They are more like of a plasticine, created by the French Revolution and formed in a way that responds to the needs of a nation that became free from feudalism and pursued more democratic structures, through the existance of a shared connection- identity among the people. The concequences of the French Revolution were to affect, many decades later, what was then the Ottoman Empire, which till then understood, recognized and formed based on the religious identity, the Christian and the Muslim. History, however, has taught us that big political shifts are almost never held peacefully, but abruptly and violently.
One thousand years after the fermentation of the concept of nationalism and the nation-state in the region of Mediterrenean, the shift from the religious to the national identity was held through the violent exchange of populations, christians and muslims, greeks and turkish respectively, in 1923.
This large prologue was brought in my mind to offer you a sense of what was my journey in Fokea like, of Mr. F that I met there and the thoughts that crossed my mind.
In Fokea, we visited a museum full of memories, objects, photos and handmade emdroidery from the years after the Population Exchange. There we met Mr. F.
Mr. F is one of those people whose family took the decision not to leave their house in Turkey during the exchange, but rather stay behind holding this big burden of a quite bizarre choice. They signed their shift to Islam and become Muslim. He guided us through the museum and it was like he was guiding us through his own life. Though only in the end of the tour he made THE question, which I have learned to dislike because of an oppressed childhood from two very strict orthodox parents.
-                     Who is Orthodox?
Someone showed towards me, while I feel a knot in my heart because of this identity that was given to me, without being able to choose it, very carefully and very personally. I didn’t say anything, I just let the moment rush like I wasn’t there.
-                     “Come with me”, he said, and I followed him to a small room inside the museum.“I want to give you this icon of Saint Sotiria. Take it as a gift from me”.
-                     “Thank you very much. I will give it to my mother who believes in God. I am sure she will like it very much, because my family also has origins from Izmir”.
And somehow, like this, seeing his emotions in his moved eyes, I felt that all those thoughts that I had done with my imagination, which seemed like a fairytale, quite unreal, including boats and persecutions, oppression and hatred between people from both sides of the Eagean, it was a harsh past reality for him and his family. I could do nothing less than to forget for a while my oppressed childhood and accept his emotions, not in political terms, but more in emotional ones.
History has its own paradox and not accidentally. There are these transcendental identities that give you the impression that history can be turned into a personal choice just for a while. Mr. F had such a transcendental identity that urged him to overcome the mandatory national and religious identities of the age and to accept an identity which he didn’t choose as well- his shift to Islam.  Mr. F is a communist. That is what he whispered to me, while we were having a cay at a local café.
        For these reasons, it is interesting to talk about these transcendental identities, because they shed light to a part of the history that stayed in the dark for decades. This is because the stories of the specific population exchange are stories of violent repatriations, stories of survival and hatred. And these stories can be found easily in textbooks, in days of remembrances of both countries, they are told by our grandparents and relatives, you read them and hear them somewhere accidentally. Though, you won’t find easily the story of Mr. F, you will not hear or read it anywhere, but only in the place that it was born.
The communist and labor consciousness of Mr. F helped him to see and give meaning to his life, outside the realms of the narrow national and religious identity. He got connected with the people around you with the criterion of class, and not on the basis of nationality and religion. His identities urged him to overcome the bifurcation of “whether you will leave Turkey as a Greek Orthodox or you will stay as a Muslim” and stayed in Turkey as a communist. Because for him, the importance was not hidden in whether someone is muslim or orthodox, Greek or Turkish, but rather on the fact that the struggle of the classes was and would still be a reality.
Mr. F and every Mr. F give through their choices these third, distanced and wise answer to all those who believe that our countries should be mono-ethnic. His transcendental identity is as relevant as ever, although so many years have passed. And it will be relevant as long as we see extreme nationalist parties to recover their power in Europe, as long as the gap among rich and poor will widen and as long as identities like the one of Mr. F‘s will consist a reason of oppression and exile. For this reason this article is dedicated to him. Because with great respect to his family’s experiences, he managed to maintain an identity, which doesn’t set national or religious limits in our existence, bringing in this way solidarity one step closer, in a period of legitimated hatred between the two countries.
                                          ^ To Mr. Fs’ of both countries

                                  Evs volunteers in Fokea

^^ Merhaba(y)lar ^^

                        Dear readers!


          Guess what! I am the new volunteer of Atolye Deneme Sanat and I will be keeping you  company for the upcoming six months. My name is Efklia Pan and I come from Selanik, Yunanistan! I have really no idea about what I am going to post here, but I am sure that as I grow up in this city I will find many things to write about and share with you. Six months ago, I graduated from the faculty of Journalism and the future seems like an empty paper ready to be coloured, sometimes with difficulties and other times with joy.
         I started this adventure in order to challenge myself, my fears and my present. I packed
my luggage, I said goodbye to all those that I love back home, I cleaned my head and here it starts! 
         I will avoid talking about myself a bit more, I will let you learn about me, through my articles and thoughts! But what I really want to share with you a very nice piece of art, a line of words that consist my motivation for this long stop in Izmir.

          " Life knows, and I trust that"

   "I’d like so much to impress you. Our sole night was sudden and quick, like a autumn shower. I didn’t have time to start. I didn’t have time to tell you my unique quality: I’m a collector. I collect the toughest and wildest thing in the world: Moments. When I have this sudden lust of flying, and I have no place to fly to, I hide in my private collection, filled with coffees, boxers, dancers, accidental caresses, swears, tender outlaws, galleries, meetings, cries, silences, break ups, words, words, words. No matter what, things will flow as they want to. Life knows, and I trust that. I ‘m one of those guys who always enjoyed cheap smokes...|